After just three days of training camp, it’s time for the Sabres to say goodbye to HarborCenter and hello to other teams.
Buffalo will open its seven-game preseason schedule Monday in the other arena Terry Pegula built. The Sabres and Minnesota Wild will meet at 7 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena on the Penn State campus. It will be the first NHL game contested in the arena, which opened in 2013 after a $102 million donation by the Sabres’ owner and his wife, Kim.
The Sabres have not announced their lineup, but the Wild is going with a youth-laden squad. Former Buffalo forward Chris Stewart and Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba are among the few established players who will play for Minnesota. Alex Stalock, who came over from San Jose, is expected to start in net.
The game kicks off an extremely busy week for the Sabres, who have a pair of back-to-back situations. They host Ottawa on Tuesday night in KeyBank Center. They’ll practice in the arena Wednesday, then face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night in Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont. The Leafs visit Buffalo on Friday night.
The four-game week will allow coach Dan Bylsma to get good looks at his roster hopefuls. Stars Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly won’t play, pushing forward candidates such as Derek Grant, Justin Bailey, Alexander Nylander, Evan Rodrigues and Hudson Fasching into more prominent roles.
“I think you’re going to see some good competition probably as a result of that,” Bylsma said.
The Sabres, who started with 56 players in training camp, are expected to trim their roster. Most of the early cuts will be prospects sent back to their junior teams.
The Sabres’ final intrasquad scrimmage was a 3-2 victory by the White team Sunday. The Gold squad opened a 2-0 lead on goals by Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo, but Brian Gionta and Nicolas Deslauriers answered to tie the score. Defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer, signed to a two-way contract during the summer, scored the winner on a low shot from the point.
For the second straight day, the scrimmage featured solid hits and angry glances from guys competing for positions.
“I liked every part of it,” Bylsma said. “I liked us at the net. I liked our guys protecting the net. I think if you got really close you probably would have saw more of a smile than an angry face, but I like both of that from every one of those guys.”
The Sabres built HarborCenter and renovated the training areas in KeyBank Center with the goal of making their three-rink complex the jewel of the NHL. It's working.
"Everything here is first class," Buffalo defenseman Mac Bennett, who is new to the organization, said Sunday. "I was with Montreal the last two years, and I didn’t think it was going to get much better than that. They’ve definitely outdone Montreal with the facilities and the way we’re treated and on top of that everything we have at our disposal. It’s pretty cool to see."